The island, birthplace of Nicholas Tselementes and a number of other master chefs, has a rich variety of gastronomic traditions.
At Christmas the delicious smells of baking drift from the houses. The most popular in Sifnos at this time of year are ‘foinikia’ (elsewhere in Greece known as ‘melomakarona’ - honey syrup cookies) and ‘avgokalamara’ (elsewhere known as ‘diples’ - deep fried strips of dough rolled and dipped in honey syrup). During winter traditional ‘siglino’ (cured smoked pork), ‘pykti’ (pork jelly) is still prepared today.
A little later in the year, for Carnival, next in line are dairy desserts, rice pudding, cream desserts, goat and sheep's milk yoghurt, which is fresh produced in large quantities at this time.
And it wouldn’t be Easter in Sifnos without the smell of roasting ‘mastelo’ (lamb or lamb cooked in a clay pot, also called a ‘matselo’, with red wine and dill baked in a wood-burning oven), without the ‘poulia tis Lambris’ (the ‘birds of Easter’, a kind of brioche), honey pies, a sweet prepared with Sifnian boiled ‘athotyros’ (fresh soft white cheese) and local thyme honey.
The joys of marriage ceremonies are celebrated by preparation of Sifnian diamond-shaped ‘pasteli’ (honey and sesame toffees) and pan or oven-cooked marzipan (with or without sugar).
The traditional festivals of the island are accompanied by communal meals at long tables, reminiscent of meals in ancient times or early Christian ‘Agape’ or Love feasts. They involve the serving of traditional ‘revithada’ (chickpea soup) and braised lamb or goat ‘kokkinisto’ cooked in ‘red’ tomato sauce in special large metal pots or cauldrons and served with pasta, or during Lent, fried cod with garlic sauce and salad.
On Sundays, the main dish is the chickpea soup, baked in clay pots (‘skepastaria’) for several hours overnight, in wood-burning ovens fed with vine twigs.
Other dishes never absent from the Sifnos meal are chickpea patties, caper salad (stewed dry caper), kalasouna (pies filled with wild greens and rice), ‘manoura’ (yellow hard spicy cheese matured in ‘gyli’ (red wine dregs)), and, depending on the season, ‘chyrovoskoi’ (wild greens), ‘myzithra’ cheese (fresh goat cheese with a slightly sour taste, ideal as an addition to Greek (‘village’) salad), or string beans with garlic puree. Also popular are dried figs, ‘loli’ (a sweet dessert made with red pumpkin), syrupy ‘spoon’ sweets and liqueurs made with fruit that grow abundantly in Sifnos, and infusions made from the rich variety of plants and herbs growing wild on the island, including sage and chamomile.
Local Sifnos sweet treats can be found in the traditional bakeries and patisseries, in the form of aniseed biscuits, butter biscuits, boiled and baked almond marzipan, honey and sesame ‘pasteli’ bars, Greek ‘loukoumia’ (‘Turkish delight’), ‘bourekakia’ (honey nut phyllo pastry rolls), and syrup ‘spoon’ sweets.